Stop Kidding, Start Uplifting

Proverbs 26:18
“People who shrug off deliberate deceptions, saying, “I didn’t mean it, I was only joking,” are worse than careless campers who walk away from smoldering campfires.” (MSG)

Proverbs 26:19
“Like a maniac shooting flaming arrows is one who deceives their neighbor and says, “I was only joking!” (NIV)

Do you find yourself saying the words “I’m just kidding” or “I’m just joking”? I know I am guilty. I like to joke and those three words are easy to throw around in times of humor.

What’s amusing to me about “I’m just kiddings,” though, is that they usually follow a hurtful or harsh attempt at humor. Yet, whatever has been said is supposed to be automatically cancelled out and forgotten once the words “I’m just kidding” are added. As if “I’m just kidding” initiates the “dry erase board” effect.

Think about a time where you have been on the other end of the “I’m just kidding”. Maybe someone was putting you down in an attempt to impress others and, once they were finished, they followed it up with the three magic words: “I’m just kidding”. Did that really lessen the sting of being made fun of? Absolutely not.

In James 3, the tongue is described as a fire. Verses 3:5-6 say this:

“A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything–or destroy it! It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.” (MSG)

What comes before those three words is the spark that can set off a forest fire. It’s important that we recognize that just like a forest fire isn’t easily put out, the fires our tongues can potentially set off can’t simply be put out by a quick, “I’m just kidding”.

We need to be very cautious with the words that we say. I’d like to encourage each of us to keep from using humor as an excuse for saying things we shouldn’t. Instead of saying “I’m just kidding”, we need to focus on changing the words that come before so they are positive, uplifting and encouraging.

Do you find yourself saying “I’m just kidding” to co-workers and colleagues? Your employees? Friends? Family?

Proverbs and Business is Guest Posting

This past week, I had the privilege of being asked to write a guest article for Business Works, a UK publication that according to their site, “highlights business, entrepreneurship, success and opportunity”. This was definitely an awesome opportunity to get Proverbs and Business out there in front of fresh eyeballs. My hope and prayer is that Proverbs and Business will be seen by more and more people.

For anyone that hasn’t had a chance to read my post titled “How To Overcome a Lack of Motivation”, click on the link which will take you over to the article on Business Works’ website. By the way, if you enjoy reading about business and leadership, they have some great reads over on Business Works. I definitely recommend adding it to your list of sites to follow.

What Type of Foundation Are You Building On?

Proverbs 12:7

“The wicked are overthrown and are no more, but the house of the righteous stands firm.” (NIV)

My first thought upon reading this verse was that the house of the righteous stands firm because it has a rock-solid foundation. Jesus speaks about the importance of having a sturdy foundation in Matthew 7 when he says:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27 NIV)

Let’s pretend your current position is your house. What kind of foundation are you building your “house” on? You may be a business owner, a seasoned executive, middle management, or maybe just a fresh college graduate starting out in your career. Are you building on rock or are you building on sand?

In life, just like the verses say, the rain is going to come down, the streams are going to rise and the winds are going to blow and beat against your house. Weather shifts are part of life. They are going to happen. My question for you is this: Is your “house” prepared to stand firm when those weather shifts come or will it fall with a great crash?

Your business or career is only as strong as the foundation you build it on. On the other hand, if you have a weak foundation, you are left vulnerable in ways that can disrupt or even lead to collapse. If your foundation is weak, then it’s important you patch the cracks in order to strengthen it.

What are some ways to patch the cracks and strengthen the foundation?

1. Give everything over to God

It’s very simple. It’s so much easier to go through life when you are a part of something greater than yourself. Don’t put all the pressure on yourself. Allow God to be in control.

2. Have character and integrity always

Stephen Covey said this:

“The character ethic, which I believe to be the foundation of success, teaches that there are basic principles of effective living, and that people can only experience true success and enduring happiness as they learn and integrate these principles into their basic character.”

We put ourselves in stressful situations when we don’t live a life of integrity. When we build our careers without integrity on a house of cards, at any moment that house could come tumbling down. There’s a reason God gave us consciences that notify us when we are doing right or wrong. Just have character and integrity and give your conscience some relief.

3. Give up anything that is holding you back

Is there anything that is holding you back from reaching your potential? A few common examples of things that hold people back are: TV, people you are surrounding yourself with, lack of discipline, and financial issues as a result of low financial IQ. Be willing to give up or change whatever is holding you back. As the saying goes, “the pain of disciplines is far less than the pain of regret”.

4. Eliminate unresolved Issues

If you have any unresolved issues with colleagues, friends or family, resolve these issues. Unresolved issues become burdens that hold you back from performing at your best.

5. Meet with someone you respect

Find someone you have the utmost respect for and ask them if you can take them to lunch. This person has to be someone who knows you extremely well. Take a notepad and pen (old-fashioned I know) and take notes so you have a guide for what needs to be changed. Just a sidenote: Don’t waste their time unless you are truly willing to change.

6. Put together a plan to work

Do you even have a plan? Just my personal preference, but I wouldn’t want to live in a house not built from a plan. Sit down and figure out some goals you would like to accomplish. Then put together a plan that you can work that will ultimately lead to accomplishing the goals you have set.

I have always loved this quote:

“If you want to change your life, you have to change your life.”

I have no idea who said it but I love it because it’s so simple yet full of truth. If you have cracks in the foundation because it hasn’t been previously laid right, you have to make the necessary patches. Don’t wait either. Remember, those weather shifts will come. Make the necessary changes today so your house will be the one standing firm on rock when that time comes.

A Habit of Highly Successful People

Proverbs 22:29

“Observe people who are good at their work— skilled workers are always in demand and admired; they don’t take a backseat to anyone.” (MSG)

Think about a few leaders that you respect in your field. They could be a boss/bosses, a competitor or a famous business leader. Are you observing these leaders in action? In my opinion, too many people rely on only learning from their own mistakes. There is so much knowledge and wisdom to be gained from other people’s mistakes and the way in which they persevered and succeeded through them. As John Maxwell says, “Big-picture thinkers learn from their experiences. But they also learn from experiences they don’t have.”

John Wooden, who was the late, great coach of UCLA basketball, was also famous for a diagram he spent close to thirty years honing called the Pyramid of Success. This diagram is made up of 15 building blocks Wooden believed led to winning in basketball and in life. One of those building blocks is “Alertness”. According to Wooden, it is important to “be observing constantly. Stay open-minded. Be eager to learn and improve.”

Angela Maiers writes about the importance of aspiring leaders to be teachable and willing to learn in her article titled A “TO-BE” List for Aspiring Leaders:

“Teachability leads to excellence and excellence makes people take notice. Being teachable reveals your desire to improve, grow, and be excellent in all you do.  It’s the excellent that often lead in any given field or industry. Don’t fail to learn all you can from those who went before you or to grow from your mistakes.  Seeking out coaches and mentors will push you light years ahead of where you would be if you travelled alone.”

While failure is part of the process of improving and striving to attain goals in life, successful people minimize their failures by making it a habit to learn and observe the success of others. If we strive to be the excellent in our respective fields, it’s essential for us to be teachable and willing to learn. The knowledge we need to attain success is out there. We just need to be open-minded and eager to pursue it.

How Our Thoughts Create Our Future

Proverbs 18:7

NIV- “A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul.”

I’ve never understood why people kind of snicker when they hear someone talking about positive thinking and attempting to have a positive attitude. It’s as if striving to improve our lives is a bad thing.

I’d argue that those that accomplish the most in life 9 times out of 10 make an asserted effort to be positive. Think about the person you respect most in life. My guess is that that person doesn’t tell themselves or others that they will never accomplish anything. They probably have a lot of confidence in themselves and strive to maintain a positive attitude.

According to Norman Vincent Peale in his book, The Power of Positive Thinking:

“the words we speak have a direct and definite effect upon our thoughts. Thoughts create words, for words are the vehicles of ideas. But words also affect thoughts and help to condition if not to create attitudes. In fact, what often passes for thinking starts with talk.”

Think about if you’ve ever done this. In conversation with friends, you are talking about someone famous who has accomplished what most would consider something great in their life. I’m shocked at how often I hear people follow that up with this comment or something similar, “Must be nice. I’ll never be able to do anything like that.” And the conversation topic may be different but the follow-up comment is always similar. By making those comments, people subconsciously convince themselves verbally that they will be average and mediocre. A lot of times without even realizing it.

The majority of our lives (outside of sleeping) is spent talking to ourselves in our heads. Yet most of us, during this time, spend a large part of it subconsciously beating ourselves up and telling ourselves we won’t accomplish what God’s plan and His definition of success is for our lives. We probably rarely ever realize it.

You’ve probably heard this saying: “Your mind is like a parachute. It only works if it is open”. When we make negative comments, we close our minds. Because our minds aren’t open, they just assume what they’ve been told and don’t think any different. As a result, we stay mediocre and never truly accomplish the plan God has for our lives.

What lesson we can take from this?

The goal in life should be to live a life honoring of God and to accomplish what His calling and plan is for our lives. When we tear ourselves down verbally, we are actually counter-actively working against ourselves as we strive to accomplish that. If you are a person who finds yourself subconsciously negative, you can change that by changing your thoughts.

The following is another great Norman Vincent Peale quote:

“Watch your thoughts; They become words. Watch your words; They become deeds. Watch your deeds; They become habits. Watch your habits; They become character. Character is everything.”

Realize how important our minds are? If this is the progression, we need to first focus on changing our thoughts. Since we saw earlier that our words play a role in our thoughts, we can start by consciously changing the words we are speaking. Also, it is imperative we pay more attention to the types of things we put in our minds.

For example, what types of people are we spending time with and do their actions and words give us healthy thoughts? Also, are we reading the Bible and books authored by leaders we respect? Are we listening to podcasts that contain information that will make us better people?

I believe that verses like Proverbs 18:7 speak truth about how important and delicate our tongues and words are. Another favorite of mine is Proverbs 18:21 which says:

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” (NIV)

Going back to my post a few backs on the principle of sowing and reaping, our words are seeds and we need to think of them that way. If we want our thoughts and words to bear fruit throughout the progression, we need to plant carefully.

Stop Acting Corporate and Start Having Fun

Proverbs 17:22

NIV- “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

The Message- “A cheerful disposition is good for your health; gloom and doom leave you bone-tired.”

Photo Credit: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

I have to give credit for the inspiration to write on this specific topic to Brad Ellison, Kevin Winningham and Larry Taylor. Brad wrote a phenomenal guest post Friday and it really got me thinking about how important it is to combine humor and laughter with business. Kevin and Larry responded to Brad’s post by leaving insightful comments and offering the verse above, Proverbs 17:22.

I love this verse because I love to laugh. Maybe you’re like me and when you get together with friends your stomach feels like you just did about 1,000 sit ups because you’ve been laughing so hard. It’s a great feeling. Like The Message translation says, a cheerful disposition is good for us.

Be careful not to skip over the second part of the verse though. Do you know anyone that just looks burned out because of stress? I’m sure we all know someone like that. That stress could be the effect of the overall magnitude and importance of their position within the company. Maybe they are in a highly competitive job setting where they need to continually perform. Or maybe they are even stressed over the future possibility that they may lose their job. The outcome of a highly stressful environment is burnout. It may not be after a month. Maybe not after a year. But eventually that individual is going to hit the burnout stage.

Sometimes I wonder when organizations became so serious and so cut throat. We call it “corporate”. And that’s exactly why my generation despises the thought of working in Corporate America. When did we begin adopting phrases like “no pain, no gain”? In my opinion, it’s become obvious that the old ways of doing business are not working effectively anymore. Just look at heart-related disease which is higher than ever (and one of the major reasons is stress).

So what types of changes can companies make going forward? This is where Proverbs 17:22 comes in. It’s time we inject some laughter and humor into the workplace. We are there 40+ hours per week. If we are going to be there 1/4 of our week, we might as well have a little fun.

recent study conducted at Canadian financial institutions made this discovery:

“Managers who facilitated the highest level of employee performance used humor the most often.”

Also, according to Dr. David Abramis, a professor at Cal State Long Beach who has studied fun at work for years:

“People who have fun on the job are more creative, more productive, better decision-makers, and get along better with co-workers. They also have fewer absentee, late, and sick days than people who aren’t having fun.”

So when we release tension through laughter and having fun, it allows us to relax, which in turn increases our capabilities to perform.

Maybe you’re a skeptic though and are asking…Can the benefits to having fun be measured? Actually they can. It’s done through comparing the absenteeism, tardiness, and turnover rates pre-program implementation. So, in other words, employees miss less work, are more prone to be at work on time and stick around longer because they enjoy being at work. Sounds like a win-win to me.

So with that in mind…I’m going to do something different than I have done in the past. Instead of making a list of ways we can implement humor individually and in the workplace, I’m going to go out on a limb and let you, the readers, offer ways to make this happen.

What do you guys think? What specific ways can we inject laughter and fun into the workplace?

Guest Post: Creativity vs. Humor

by Brad Ellison

Brandon asked me to write a guest post for his Proverbs and Business blog.  I was racking my brain trying to come up with a topic that would be suitable to his blog, but also something I would feel equipped to write with some sort of authority.  After days of no topic coming to mind, (and after Brandon, very politely, asking a few times if I would still be able to contribute something) he texted me earlier this week with a question.  “Which sounds like a better leadership quality to write on…creativity or humor?”

Brandon and I have known each other for a number of years, so he has had some time to observe me and maybe (hopefully) he was able to identify the two leadership values that I find the most important.  This makes his question pretty tough to answer.  If he had asked “which sounds like a better leadership quality to write on…creativity or being good at Scrabble?” the answer would be pretty clear (Scrabble, obviously).  The two qualities he asked about, though, are a little closer in importance to me, so let’s dig in and see what we can discover.

Background

Before I had my current position as social media manager at Luftig Warren, I worked for about 5 ½ years in the life insurance industry.  I started as a salesman, but after only a few months, I was promoted to a sales manager position, which I occupied for most of the last 5 years of my insurance career.  At any time, I had anywhere between 10-20 salespeople working directly for me.  I had many opportunities to create, experiment with and develop a leadership style that was uniquely mine and as effective as possible.  The goal was to motivate my team to sell as much product as possible while keeping them motivated during the good weeks and the bad weeks.

The Trophy

One of my favorite things I came up with during my time in that job was my reward trophy.  Each Monday and Thursday, our team would gather to turn in paperwork and make phone calls to set up appointments for the coming days.  As a “reward” for the top sales in the previous two days, I went to a local trophy shop and bought the tallest, gaudiest trophy I could find and had “Ellison Agency #1!” inscribed on the front.  The winner from the previous days would set the trophy right in front of him while at the office, leaving no question who was the top earner that week.  It was amazing to see that an atrocious trophy would motivate my team to make an extra phone call, set an extra appointment or make that extra sale, just to have that trophy in their position for one day at the office.  But it was hilarious to all of us and the team loved it.

Humor just keeps everyone in a good mood, right?  During appointment setting hours, if I found a hilarious YouTube video, I’d tell everyone to take a break and come check it out.  We’d get a good laugh, the stress of making countless phone calls would dissolve and our productivity would rise.  Keeping the office light-hearted contributed to our team consistently being number 1, week in and week out.

I know it could be argued that part of being humorous is being creative, but in a business sense, they are two very different things.  Being humorous is sharing a funny joke or video with your team to help them lighten up.  Being creative is finding new ways to solve an old problem.  Is declaring a “Jeans Short Day” at the office more valuable to your business’ bottom line than a new sales script that helps close more deals?  Probably not.  But it might be more valuable to the morale of your workers to get a good laugh at the idea.  And in my experience, the employees that laughed more, not only stayed around longer, but also worked a lot harder.

Humor is more important then?

I don’t think there’s an easy answer.  Maybe if Brandon let’s me write another guest post I can talk a bit about the benefits of creativity in the workplace.

RESPOND: What are some of the humorous ways you have led your team?  Does a good laugh keep you pumped about your job?

Brad Ellison is the Social Media Manager for Luftig Warren, a marketing research and advisory services firm in Michigan.  He is passionate about Jesus, music and winning at board games.  He has successfully failed 4 times at auditioning for American Idol, America’s Got Talent and The Voice.  He’s that one guy you know from that one thing you did that one time.  You know…that guy?  Yeah, that’s him.